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Sydney’s Suicide Towers Now Recognized as a Safe Community

Housing Commission estates have long been regarded as the worst of the worst, places where community has no chance of forming, crime rates are high, drugs are freely available, most of us wouldn’t dare to walk through one after dark. Sydney now has a model of how to turn an estate around…

The high-rise Northcott estate in Surry Hills was plagued by drug addiction, crime and mental health problems, leading the media to dub it “Suicide Towers”. Now it has become the first public housing estate in the world to achieve World Health Organisation (WHO) recognition as a “safe community”.

Starting in 2002, tenants joined forces with police, NSW’s housing department and national arts group Big hART (Big hART) to turn the estate around. It is home to about 1000 people, many of whom live alone and were previously too terrified even to go outside.

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Source: Sydney’s ‘Suicide Towers’ now world beater – National – smh.com.au (click on the link to see a photo, subscription may be required)

Tenants are now better equipped to deal with problems in the high rise housing development, and community is forming.  Apparently there will be a documentary about life in Northcott Estate on ABC Australia early next year.

This is an awesome achievement for an inner city housing development project, over the years there have been calls to pull these towers down and replace them with clean new, (non-housing estate) developments. This outcome is ten times better, a community has formed out of the ashes of a failed government program, the existing infrastructure is being maintained, minimizing wasted labor and embodied energy in new construction, and it becomes an example of what can be achieved with a little planning and a lot of effort.

What areas of your city could do with a turn around, and what would it take?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.